The Australian cricketer Steve Waugh started his career as a bowler who could also bat at the lower middle order. Contrary to the ‘stone cold’ image in the public, he often struggled with his mind doubting his own capabilities in the game. He battled through his negative thoughts in his career to emerge out as one of the greatest cricketers of all time and also one of the most successful Australian batsman and captain.
The first time I held this book in my hands it sent goosebumps down my body. I could feel this enormous (800 pages) strong volume breathing of life in my hands just like a horcrux would do. The book is so carefully crafted right from the outer cover to the magnificently easy to comprehend language and the pictures taken out of Steve’s personal tour albums throughout the world. It had a very distinct personal touch to it, the kind which establishes a direct contact between the reader and the legend himself. ‘Out of My Comfort Zone’ chronicles the life of Steve Waugh right from his childhood till the last test he played, ending with a chapter by his wife Lynette. The book starts off with an ‘explosive’ foreword written by batting maestro Rahul Dravid, followed by one written by Steve’s friend Tim May. It takes you through his childhood, the formative years of his cricketing career, the breakthrough, the two decades of Aussie cricket, his struggles with himself, his long struggles with the Australian cricketing body, his view about different countries, sledging, the different events in the cricketing world which took place during his career, his philosophies about life in general and most importantly you’ll get to witness first hand from Waugh himself – the transformation of the Australian cricket team which was in disarray in the middle of the 80s (before the world cup) under the leadership of Allan Border to becoming the best cricketing side in the early 2000s under his own leadership.. The entire book was peppered with happenings from his personal life (marriage, kids etc).
Many people in India have criticized this book for being too harsh in his comments about the living conditions and the poverty of the country. I believe he gave an honest picture of the country. Imagine a young guy who lived his entire life in a highly developed country like Australia coming out and playing in a developing country like India. He’ll definitely witness massive changes in his surroundings and this is what he has portrayed in the book. He doesn’t criticize the country, he just gives a first hand account of what the country looked like to him when he stayed there for the first few times. And I believe most of us Indians would agree with his views. It’s just that we’re either too embarrassed to accept it or we’re too ignorant about the realities of our country. On the brighter side, reading about his work for Udayan in Kolkata was very heart touching.
I really enjoyed reading this book. The detailed tour analysis and the tid-bits (the other side of the cricket away from the field) taken out of the countless tour diaries maintained by Steve Waugh throughout his career makes this book which dwarfs the Oxford dictionary in size an engaging read. It’ll give a cricket enthusiast a word by word ‘visual’ of almost 20 years of pure Australian cricket. A must read!